The Kremlin is denouncing as baseless and amateurish U.S. intelligence claims it meddled in the U.S. presidential election to help Donald Trump win a four-year term in the White House.
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said Monday, “These are baseless allegations substantiated with nothing, done on a rather amateurish, emotional level that is hardly worthy of professional work of truly world-class security services.”
“We are growing rather tired of these accusations,” Peskov said. “It is becoming a full-on witch hunt.”
His comments were the Kremlin’s first since the U.S. intelligence community said Friday it had “high confidence” that Russian President Vladimir Putin personally ordered a campaign to undermine the democratic presidential electoral process in the United States.
U.S. officials said Russian efforts were intended to undercut the election chances of Democrat Hillary Clinton and help Trump, the Republican candidate.
Peskov said Russia is “categorically denying any implication” it was responsible for the hacking of thousands of emails from the computer of Clinton campaign chief John Podesta and their release through the document-leaking group WikiLeaks. The steady disclosure of the emails in the month before the election revealed at-times embarrassing efforts by Democratic officials to help Clinton defeat Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders for the party’s presidential nomination.
“We still don’t know what data is really being used by those who present such unfounded accusations,” the Kremlin spokesman said. The United States released a declassified version of its findings that was half the length of the classified report intelligence officials presented first to Obama on Thursday and a day later to President-elect Trump.
The Kremlin spokesman said that once Trump is inaugurated in Washington work would begin on finding a date for a first meeting between the U.S. and Russian leaders.
Trump’s incoming chief of staff, Reince Priebus, said Sunday that the president-elect is “not denying entities in Russia are behind these particular hackings.”
But Trump, in a string of Twitter comments over the weekend, said “gross negligence by the Democratic National Committee allowed hacking to take place. Only reason the hacking of the poorly defended DNC is discussed is that the loss by the Dems was so big that they are totally embarrassed!”
Trump tweeted, “Intelligence stated very strongly there was absolutely no evidence that hacking affected the election results. Voting machines not touched!”
Trump won the November election in a stunning upset and assumes power January 20 as President Barack Obama leaves office after eight years as the American leader.
Moscow’s response to the U.S. report came a day after Obama said in an interview with ABC News that he ordered the intelligence assessment “to make sure that we understand this is something that Putin has been doing for quite some time in Europe, initially in the former satellite states where there are a lot of Russian speakers, but increasingly in Western democracies.”
Obama said he did not underestimate Putin, but acknowledged underestimating how much it is possible for misinformation and hacking to impact open societies and “insinuate themselves into our democratic practices in ways that I think are accelerating.”
Obama said more time and resources need to be used on cyber security, and that he hopes the situation is not seen in a partisan way.
“One of the things that I am concerned about is the degree to which we’ve seen a lot of commentary lately where there were, there are Republicans or pundits or cable commentators who seemed to have more confidence in Vladimir Putin than fellow Americans because those fellow Americans were Democrats,” he said. “That cannot be.”
The U.S. intelligence report made no assessment whether the leaks changed the outcome of the election, which Trump won in the Electoral College, where state-by-state results throughout the country decide its presidential winner, rather than the popular vote, where Clinton prevailed over Trump by nearly three million votes.
Obama has had one face-to-face meeting with Trump, shortly after the election, and has talked with him several times. He said Sunday they have spoken about trust in the U.S. intelligence agencies.
“When I talked to him about our intelligence agencies, what I’ve said to him is that there are going to be times where you’ve got raw intelligence that comes in and in my experience, over eight years, the intelligence community is pretty good about saying, ‘Look, we can’t say for certain what this means.”
But Obama added, “There are going to be times where the only way you can make a good decision is if you have confidence that the process is working. And the people that you put in charge are giving you their very best assessments.”
Obama said he also has talked to Trump about his penchant for tweeting an array of taunts and messages on Twitter.
“I’ve said to him, and I think others have said to him that the day that he is the president of the United States, there are world capitals and financial markets and people all around the world who take really seriously what he says, and in a way that’s just not true before you’re actually sworn in as president,” Obama said.